California Academy of Sciences

  • Double LEED® Platinum sustainability rating from US Green Buildings Council.
  • Largest LEED Platinum public building in the world.
  • Uses one-third less energy than comparable structures and generates five percent of total energy demand.


Founded in 1853, the California Academy of Sciences is the largest cultural institution in the City of San Francisco. Its previous home, damaged in a 1989 earthquake, was razed and replaced on the same site in Golden Gate Park. The state of the art facility, featuring a wide range of green building technologies and strategies, is currently the greenest museum in the world.

The $488 million facility, opened to the public on 27 September 2008, is the result of a seven year collaboration between Arup, and the architects Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Stantec Architecture.

Arup’s scope on the project was comprehensive. It encompassed structural and complete building services engineering (mechanicalelectrical, and plumbing), in addition to fire safety consulting, facade engineering, lighting design, sustainability consulting, acoustics consulting and pedestrian planning.

"On behalf of the City of San Francisco, I am extremely proud and thankful for your unflagging support and dedication to seeing this project through to final LEED Platinum certification. The potential for educating the public on issues of sustainable design and green building is vast. This building's living legacy will continue to be something of which we can all be very proud."

—Mr. Mark Palmer, Municipal Green Building Coordinator, City and County of San Francisco

The visually-striking building features an undulating 2.5 acre living roof with a perimeter steel canopy supporting photovoltaic cells, a large glass skylight supported by a tensile net structure, a freestanding 90-foot diameter planetarium dome, five separate iconic aquarium tanks and a 90-foot diameter glazed dome housing a rainforest exhibit.

"The roof of the academy's central space is a swoop of glass open at the top, supported by a thin web of tense cables underneath. It was engineered with great dexterity by the firm Arup, and hovers with a grace that dazzled visiting architecture critics."

—John King, San Francisco Chronicle

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Project featured in the Design Yearbook 2009
  • Interior of CAOS, showing rainforest dome. Credit Tim Griffith.Open gallery

    The largest LEED Platinum building in the world.

  • Still image from CAOS film, showing sustainability consultant speaking.Play video

    Watch: key figures on the CAoS project discuss the building's features